Travel days can be daunting and stressful for anyone of any age, but sheer torture for kids who don’t know what to expect on this often chaotic day. Expectation is key when it comes to the day of travel. An easy way to prepare your child is to role-play. It is through the power of imaginative play that children explore and make discoveries about themselves and the world around them. You can incorporate travel play in their normal playtime weeks before departure. Play airport! Play airplane! Play train! Make it fun, interactive and educational. When travel is presented as an adventure, the process will be less tedious and more appealing for a child to experience.
Lines, lines and more lines. The airport is a classic example of the ever-popular adult game, ‘Hurry Up and Wait.” The airport is not always the most interesting place to spend 2-5 hours of your traveling day with your children surrounded by hundreds of frantic, stressed out, annoyed travelers. Although this space is not a playground, you can prepare your child for the procedures of the airport through imaginative play. Before your travel, pretend to arrive at the airport with luggage, locate the check-in counter, show passports, receive boarding passes, check luggage, walk through security, etc. Your child will better understand why all the lines are necessary and will excitedly know ‘what comes next.’ Tip: Creating passports and boarding tickets with your little ones can be a lot of fun and will make the scenarios more interactive.
Build an airplane out of cardboard, or simply put chairs in rows to simulate the cabin of a plane. Make believe you are a flight attendant and have your child be a passenger or visa versa, giving them the coveted control. They will love your imaginative play, undivided attention and playing a ‘new game.’ Introduce a new in-flight procedure or occurrence each time you play, keeping the game fresh and exciting. Be sure to include boarding with ticket, storing the luggage, listening to the flight attendants’ speech, waiting for take off, the food and drink cart, sleeping, bathroom breaks, turbulence, landing, and so on. You can make this experience more authentic and fun by even serving an actual meal or snack during this time and allow your child to eat in her seat in your makeshift plane.
With Thomas the Train obsessed boys, this imaginative play chugs past the rest! Luckily, traveling by train has built-in entertainment with the freedom to walk around, visiting other compartments, and watching the moving countryside out the window, but some children might have apprehensions about this mode of transport. Again, these simulated imaginative play scenarios are to reduce stress of the unknown, so be sure to cover typical train procedures, such as waiting on the platform, boarding, finding your seat or cabin, food and drink cart or car, sleeping, etc.